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Taiwan: Milestone Proposal on Indigenous Peoples’ Self-Governance

(Sept. 30, 2010) Taiwan's Executive Yuan (Cabinet) decided on September 23, 2010, to approve a proposal for an Indigenous Peoples Self-Government Act. The foundation of the proposed act is article 4 of the Indigenous Peoples Basic Act, guaranteeing aboriginals' equal status and the development of self-governance. (June Tsai, Cabinet Greenlights Landmark Aboriginal Self-Rule Law, TAIWAN TODAY (Sept. 24, 2010),

Under the proposed law, aboriginals would be permitted to open negotiations with local governments to establish self-governed dominions, which could extend across county borders without invalidating current administrative divisions. Over 50% of tribe members would have to support a self-government proposal before it could be considered by the aboriginal government; disputes over jurisdiction would be referred to the Cabinet for mediation. (Id.)

Some of the lengthier sections of the draft are on the issuance and approval of self-governing areas' planning documents and preparatory reports (11 articles) and on the membership of those areas' assemblies and the organization and powers of the assemblies and governments (22 articles). Other sections cover such matters as the rights and responsibilities of the residents of self-governed dominions; the legislative and administrative bodies of the areas' groups, assemblies, and governments; and the relationships between the dominions and the central government, among the areas themselves, and between them and other localities. (Executive Yuan Meeting Passes Draft “Indigenous Peoples Self-Government Act” [in Chinese], Executive Yuan website (Sept. 23, 2010),

According to Sun Ta-chuan (Paelabang danapan, in the Puyuma language), Minister of the Cabinet-level Council of Indigenous Peoples, “[d]rafting this legislation was a highly complicated process because it touches on different laws and the sensitive issues of administrative boundaries and finance” and was “the most practical and substantive one we could come up with to benefit Taiwan's aboriginals.” (Tsai, supra.) However, a spokesman for the Indigenous Peoples' Action Coalition of Taiwan, Omi Wilang, a member of the Atayal tribe, described the bill as “lacking teeth,” and self-dominion that lacks control over finance and land as “little more than fake autonomy.” He also decried as “roadblocks for aboriginal self-government” the need to gain approval on these matters from local township representatives or city and county councils. (Id.)

On the other hand, Hsinchu County Councilor Obay'a'awi, a Saisiyat tribe member, views the bill as “a strong beginning,” even if “far from perfect.” In his view, the Tao, Tsou, and Saisiyat tribes may be the first peoples to be accorded self-rule, because of their relatively smaller and less widespread populations. (Id.)